An addiction treatment program established in Allentown, Pennsylvania has been aiming to curb the deadly impacts of opioid abuse in Lehigh County by helping the community members who have experienced a drug overdose.
The addiction treatment program, called Blue Guardian, was designed earlier this year by the Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol Administrator in collaboration with Jim Martin, the Lehigh County District Attorney.
The officials explained that more outreach initiatives such as the Blue Guardian program are needed in the region considering the fact that Lehigh County has been seeing an increasing number of overdose deaths associated with substance abuse, mainly opioids, in recent years.
Last year, county officials reported that there approximately 200 drug overdose deaths had occurred — an increase of 40 drug overdose cases in comparison to the previous year. Furthermore, law enforcement officers reversed an additional approximate 200 opioid overdoses across Lehigh County in 2017.
The Blue Guardian program works by using a data collection system, tracking drug-related trends and notifying the Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol Administrator after any first responder has been able to successfully reverse an opioid overdose the naloxone.
The law enforcement agents who work within the jurisdiction of the incident will then be reaching out to a certified recovery specialist to join a police officer in a visit to the residency of the overdose survivor.
The visit, which is dubbed a ‘home support visit,’ will be occurring between 48 and 72 hours after the opioid overdose. During the occasion, the primary goal of the certified recovery specialist is to get the overdose survivor into an appropriate addiction treatment program while also looking to provide that person with any other additional resources that may be needed.
The certified recovery specialists include resource brokers, local advocates, drug addiction recovery coaches, advocates as well as role models. All of them become certified with Treatment Trends Inc., a nonprofit organization that receives funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services that has been providing treatment services for people struggling with substance use disorders in the Lehigh County region for more than 45 years.
Treatment Trends Inc. has a Center of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorders located in Allentown that features a range of services such as care management, recovery support, and relapse prevention assistance. When it is clinically recommended, patients may be offered to enroll in medication-assisted treatment programs with methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol. The nonprofit also specializes in treating people with co-occurring behavioral health conditions and substance use disorders.
Since the launch of the Blue Guardian program, in February, the certified recovery specialists have helped more than 40 county residents with opioid use disorders. A total of 13 people have entered an addiction treatment program and approximately 10 have been receiving support from one of the certified recovery specialists.
The program also provides support and information on drug addiction to the relatives of the overdose survivor, Martin stated.
He added that family members and close connections are crucial in helping a person with a substance use disorder decide to seek addiction treatment and successfully get rehabilitated.